In response to this Herald Scotland piece on EU and UK Constitutional difficulties being posted on Facebook
Smiffy posted this:
I can’t even decide which way I would vote on our membership of the EU. I see that there are apparently valid arguments on both sides, both sides use economic and social arguments for their side and against the other but I have yet to see a solid case with real measurable pros and cons for either case. What chance is there of any referendum result being other than based on emotion and baseless argument?
What I do believe is that there should be a re-assessment and a new decision making process for our membership of the EU as EU majority voting will mean that the Eurozone can effectively drive the decisions for the whole of the EU.
To which I replied in all seriousness without a hint of irony:
Excellent Smiffy. In two posts you confirm
(a) referenda are the worst way to make a difficult decision on a complicated subject, and
(b) not only is democracy the worst from of governance, but popular voting is the worst from of democracy.
Excellent. Truly excellent.
And after discounting any irony Smiffy continued:
I have been struggling with this for a little while and was going to post something along these lines after I had read around the subject a little, but Jo’s post prompted me to do it now. I guess if I rolled my sleeves up and really researched the problem, I might be able to come up with a properly informed view but how many people will do that (which is what prompted my first post)? My concern is that our elected representatives may be little more capable/willing/able than the general populace to undertake such an analysis due to a mixture of skewed priorities, politics, a sprinkling of xenophobia etc. etc. The problem is that this is a Big Question. Spending a bit more or less on this government department or that, or tweaking the tax levels can (usually will) be adjusted by successive governments, but if we vote to leave and that turns out to be the wrong thing to do, we’re stuck with the result. I just hope I’m wrong in my lack of faith in our elected body.
I thought I’d put up a longer post to explain my views on (a) and (b):
Firstly since this is NOT the immediate point (or is it?) let’s just get my cards on table as far as UK / Scottish independence and UK / EU withdrawal, so we can push this to one side for a start. Both ideas are mad – “we”should be doing what’s best for “us” – our constituency.
Talking about the UK as us and the EU or Scotland as them, or about Scotland as us and the UK or EU as them, or about us as us and “our” government(s) as them is the root of our problem. Let’s deal with the last one first:
We are responsible for our government, we are them and they are us.
Secondly we are whatever “constituency” we consider ourselves to be. That ranges from the private me, the public me, me and my family, colleagues and social circles, local communities, regional communities, national communities, international communities, humanity, life as we know it, the planet, the cosmos.
I am part of all of these. They are all “we”. We are all in this together.
The example that always makes me chuckle with despair is UK politicians involved in EU or Nato or UN or whatever proudly claiming to be doing what’s best for Britain. Doh! talk about missing the point. The point is what is best for us – our constituency, for the EU, the world, whatever. They are in general making these claims in reaction to opponents and journalists suggesting they’re not – in order to “win” arguments, not because of any inherent value.
[NOTES: Previous posts to collate, plus random notes.
Constitutions consist of principles and values, not executable policies. Changes to principles and values are OK subject for popular referenda. Executable policies are for the executive (and all the structures of checks and balances in which the values and principles are enshrined.)
Us vs them – in/out, yes/no single binding referendum – only for matters of principle and values. Non-binding referenda OK, but opinion polls probably cheaper.
Values are more than objective (or subjective) binary choices, so more than logical analysis of specific example choices, unless the example is genuinely simple.. They (quite rightly) carry emotional baggage, qualitative, immediate radical empiricism, experience of felt value.
Tyranny of majority, popular majorities without “conservative” checks and balances – conservative of constitutional values. The way we judge a majority a government in power, different levels of government constituency; Elections and electoral processes, representative or delegate – appointments from other “traditions” – first and second chambers.
Our constituency is defined by what we value, not by whoever we voted for / whoever won the last election. Still need multiple constituencies – parallel and hierarchical – see single “market” error – the (valued) objective is NOT uniformity.]